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Rookie Minicamp Notebook: Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal Bonding Early

Detroit Lions EDGE defenders Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal have formed a bond early on in rookie minicamp.

With new offensive pieces, there may be new wrinkles in the Detroit Lions’ offense heading into the second year of the Dan Campbell era.

After the offense sputtered for much of the first half of the 2021 season, Campbell managed to spark the team when he took over play-calling duties.

It’s uncertain whether he or new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson will call the plays in 2022, but there are new wrinkles the fiery head coach wants to see. One of them is an increased emphasis on and usage of the up-tempo, no-huddle offense.

“We want to be able to do anything and everything that we can at any given time,” Campbell said. “I feel like what we’re implementing will allow us to do that, and you just want to get to the point offensively where you feel like you can do anything and everything in your arsenal to put stress on the defense.”

Detroit will have plenty of new weapons on offense, namely two wideouts in first-round draft pick Jameson Williams and free-agent signee DJ Chark.

Williams is not participating in rookie camp drills, as he’s nursing a torn ACL suffered in January during the College Football Playoff national championship game. During his recent media session, he appeared upbeat and excited, despite his disappointment in being unable to play.

“It’s tough, but it’s just the situation I’m in,” Williams said. “We taking it slow. I’m out here with the trainers, getting some good rehab two-to-three times a day. Everything’s going good so far.”

Third-round pick Kerby Joseph adding versatility

The Lions took Illinois safety Kerby Joseph with the No. 97 overall pick, adding depth to the defensive backfield.

The Orlando, Fla., native didn’t see a ton of playing time until his final season with the Fighting Illini, when he burst onto the scene by intercepting five passes and forcing three fumbles.

It’s uncertain what his role may look like right away, as Detroit added another safety in free agency. But, Joseph is focused on adding different layers to his game. One of those layers is the ability to play inside as a potential nickel defender.

“That’s actually what I want to do, I want to be more versatile around the field,” Joseph said. “So, I would always be on the field, I wouldn’t have to come out in certain packages and stuff. If I could play nickel, safety and maybe you can throw me in the corner spot, if you want too, man, as long as I can stay on the field, as long as possible.”

Paschal, Hutchinson bonding

Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal gave Detroit two EDGE defenders with its first three selections.

The two members of the draft class have been working closely since arriving at rookie minicamp, going through the process of getting acclimated to the NFL.

As a result, a bond is being struck between the two players, as they learn the same position.

“Josh, he’s a very humble guy,” Hutchinson said. “Quiet and just does his thing, but you can tell he really leads by example. Those are the guys that I really love surrounding myself with. Having him in my room, we’ve been together these last couple of days hanging out, going through meetings together, going through practice. Me and him are definitely gonna be getting along for sure.”

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Paschal was a favorite of Lions general manager Brad Holmes during the pre-draft process. Among his qualities is the fact that he was a three-time captain at Kentucky. He explained to reporters Saturday how he earned the honor multiple times.

“I always had respect from everyone, as far as leading by example, even when I was a freshman,” Paschal said. “It was when I went through my cancer diagnosis my sophomore year, they saw how I handled that and how I pushed myself to my limits during that time, but also helped encourage others, as well. So, I was able to earn the guys’ respect even more from that.”


Houston wants to be dominant

Fifth-round linebacker James Houston isn’t the most well-known name, coming from FCS school Jackson State. However, he got there after transferring from Florida, and was dominant in his one season with the Tigers.

During the 2021 campaign, he was an FCS All-American, and finished with 70 tackles, with 24.5 of them coming for loss. He also totaled 16.5 sacks, with 4.5 of them coming in the second game of the season against Tennessee State.

Now, he’s looking to take that dominant skill set into the NFL. Like Joseph, he wants to add versatility. An outside linebacker by trade, he said he’s open to playing down on the line, in addition to his edge responsibilities.

“My mindset is always the same on the field,” Houston said. “Just physical, dominant and just being dynamic and making plays. Where that’s on the line or off the ball, I’m always trying to be in the backfield and just cause havoc.”

The rookie will be battling for a spot on the defense. He’s confident in his abilities, after being nearly unblockable for Jackson State a season ago.

“I’m a dynamic player,” Houston said. “I get in that backfield, and I cause havoc. I make plays, I cause turnovers and things like that. Forced fumbles are huge for me, picks, everything like that. That’s gonna be the name of my game.”

Williams eager to return

For Williams, something as simple as putting his cleats on served as an enjoyable moment. He said he hadn’t put them on since January, during the College Football Playoff national title game.

“It feels real good, just to be out here with some guys,” Williams said. “It’s football, so it’s love. Everything’s going really good.”

Though he’s not participating in workouts, he’s been involved in the process. Every day, he goes through the meetings and has the practice script, so that he knows what is going on.

Despite the injury, he’s been active and engaged on the sidelines. The Alabama product is eager to return to action, but isn’t letting the injury darken his spirits. He was seen Saturday celebrating plays made by his teammates.

“That’s just me,” Williams said. “I love football, so I’m gonna be happy out here, ball in my hands or not. On the grass, you’re gonna see a smile on my face for sure.”